Citizens are responsible for poor quality of India’s democracy

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The quality of a democracy depends on the awareness level of citizens. Only if citizens are able to frame the right questions will they be in a position to take a sensible decision.

By this yardstick, the quality of India’s democracy is poor. To illustrate, the Times of India IPSOS poll on the two years of Narendra Modi government shows that many voters may be unaware of what a prime minister’s responsibilities are. If they display a low level of awareness, how could they possibly reach a defendable conclusion about a prime minister’s performance?

The poll showed that of all of Narendra Modi government’s initiatives, Swachh Bharat is the one that was most popular. Not the Jan Dhan Yojana which aims to universalize banking and is under the direct control of the central government. The most popular initiative was the effort to improve India’s poor record of sanitation.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi deserves credit for foregrounding the issue of sanitation. But the problem here is that he has no real influence on the progress India will make as sanitation is an issue which the Constitution has place in the domain of state governments.

The extent to which any government’s approach will influence the spread of sanitation depends on states and not centre. Yet, the people polled picked that as Modi government’s best initiative.

It is reasonable to assume the people polled should be relatively well informed as they are from India’s eight biggest cities and are economically better off. Access to information, therefore, should not be a problem.

It should not have been too difficult for people to have found out by now that while Census 2011 data showed that only 46.92% of Indian households have a latrine facility, some states have come close to achieving universal access.

In Kerala, for instance, 95.20% of the households have access. In neighbouring Tamil Nadu, which does not lag too far behind Kerala on some some important social indicators, only 48.29% of households have access to latrines.

If Tamil Nadu does not make significant progress in this aspect over the next few years, Modi cannot be blamed.  Despite that, if Swacch Bharat is the most liked scheme, it will at some level become a measure to judge the performance of the central government.

Given the relatively privileged position of the sampled respondents in the poll, it would be reasonable to expect them to be better informed about a subject which has caught their fancy. If they do not take the trouble to be adequately informed, we should not be surprised if the quality of Indian democracy is disappointing. The quality of Indian democracy reflects the interest citizens have in issues. Why blame politicians?

Source: Times of India

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